Microneedle Array Patch for the continuous monitoring of diabetes in interstitial biofluid

Summary

The goal of this project is to explore the development of epidermal polymer composite micro-needle array (MNA) capable of interminent and continuous glucose and lactate measurements for managing diabetes. These wearable sensors will monitor biomarkers in biofluid just under the surface of the skin,  painlessly and in real-time. Diabetes mellitus impacts over 4.9 million people within UK  and 422 million people worldwide. Currently, over 95% of diabetes patients use finger-pricking glucometers as their main glucose monitoring method, which is painful, messy, inconvenient, and creates social barriers.

On the other hand, Continuous Diabetes  Monitors (CDMs) rely on  invasive needle-based sensors (5–11mm long), and are limited to measuring only a single analyte. Microneedle arrays, with size of only a few hundrend micrometers offer great potential to overcome these barriers. In this project, we will investigate a technology based on tiny polymer composite needle arrays  that puncture the outer-layer of skin without causing any pain or bleeding. Effective multiplexing capabilities, will enable simultaneous detection of glucose and lactate. The detection technology will be based on electrochemical enzymatic sensing, which is highly selective and accurate.

The proposed research integrates developments in different research areas such as microfabrication, polymer composite manufacturing, electrochemical sensing, atmospeheric plasma functionalization, nanomaterials synthesis, and materials science. The student will collaborate with partners in Peking University (China) as part of  British Council grant, awarded  under the “ 2022 Enabling Grants to Strengthen UK-China Institutional Partnerships through academic collaboration” scheme.

Essential criteria

Applicants should hold, or expect to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a subject relevant to the proposed area of study.

We may also consider applications from those who hold equivalent qualifications, for example, a Lower Second Class Honours Degree plus a Master’s Degree with Distinction.

In exceptional circumstances, the University may consider a portfolio of evidence from applicants who have appropriate professional experience which is equivalent to the learning outcomes of an Honours degree in lieu of academic qualifications.

  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Masters at 65%
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project
  • Publications - peer-reviewed

Funding and eligibility

The University offers the following levels of support:

Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £18,000 (tbc) maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance).

This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)

Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £8,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)

Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).

This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Department for the Economy (DFE)

The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £18,000 (tbc) per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance).

This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

  • Candidates with pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, who also satisfy a three year residency requirement in the UK prior to the start of the course for which a Studentship is held MAY receive a Studentship covering fees and maintenance.
  • Republic of Ireland (ROI) nationals who satisfy three years’ residency in the UK prior to the start of the course MAY receive a Studentship covering fees and maintenance (ROI nationals don’t need to have pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme to qualify).
  • Other non-ROI EU applicants are ‘International’ are not eligible for this source of funding.
  • Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Due consideration should be given to financing your studies. Further information on cost of living

Recommended reading

[1] F. Tehrani etal, “An integrated wearable microneedle array for the continuous monitoring of multiple biomarkers in interstitial fluid” Nature Biomedical Engineering,  (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41551-022-00887-1.

[2] C. Hegarty etal, “Microneedle array sensors based on carbon nanoparticle composites: interfacial chemistry and electroanalytical properties” Journal of  Materials Science, 54 (2019) 10705–10714. DOI: 10.1007/s10853-019-03642-1

[3] H. Abdullah, etal “ Tackling the challenges of developing microneedle-based electrochemical sensors” Microchimica Acta, 189 (2022) 440.DOI:  10.1007/s00604-022-05510-3.

[4] J. Wang, “Electrochemical Glucose Biosensors” Chemical Reviews, 108 (2008) 814–825. DOI: 10.1021/cr068123a

[5] H. Teymourian etal, “Lab under the Skin: Microneedle Based Wearable Devices”, Advanced Healthcare Materials, 10 (2021) 2002255, DOI: 10.1002/adhm.202002255

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Key dates

Submission deadline
Monday 27 February 2023
04:00PM

Interview Date
March 2023

Preferred student start date
18 September 2023

Applying

Apply Online  

Contact supervisor

Professor Pagona Papakonstantinou

Other supervisors

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